First impression is important, because it gives a glimpse of who you are as an individual and as a friend. Sometimes, it takes as fast as a few seconds for other people to form a favorable or unfavorable first impression of you. The way you talk, the way you dress, and the way you use your body language all contribute in your first impression image.
Whether you’re at a networking event meeting potential clients, a recruiting event meeting potential employers, a family dinner meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, or a party meeting new friends, you all want people to have a positive first impression of you. Leaving a powerful first impression distinguishes you from other people and makes you stand out. Below is a list of tips on how to create a powerful first impression. Don’t just use one of them, or a few of them. Actually combine all of the tips below to make yourself stand out from the crowd!
- Don’t be afraid to make the first move
- Be confident
- Use body language
- Be a good listener
- Be yourself
- End the conversation on a good note
Back in middle school and high school, I was fairly shy and more of an introvert. Whenever I meet someone new, I would just awkwardly smiled at that person and waited until he/she started talking to me. Now, I’m definitely more of an outgoing person, especially after learning essential networking skills in college. Whenever I meet someone new, instead of waiting for that person to start the conversation, I’m usually the first to initiate. The introductory line that I almost always use is: “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Hue,” and offer my hand for the other person to shake.
Don’t be afraid to be the first to say hello and introduce yourself to new people. You can’t always wait for every single person to come up and talk to you without putting in any effort. After all, there’s nothing for you to lose! If you want to make friends and build connection, go out there and start talking to people. A simple “Hi, my name is ____” and handshake may eventually turn into hours-long conversation and great friendships. Making the first move also prove to people that you’re a confident, friendly and approachable person.
Be confident in yourself when talking with other people. I suggest coming up with interesting topics beforehand and finding similarities to keep the conversation going. Ask people for their hobbies and interests, and try to see if you have any similar interests. The more common things that you guys share, the easier it is to carry on the conversation.
For example, if the person you’re talking to likes football, and you’re a football-fan yourself, why not spend some minutes discussing the latest match or your favorite teams? If the person is new to the area, spend sometimes talking about your favorite attraction spot and offer to show him/her around. Be confident and keep other people interested.
Confident doesn’t mean being cocky or arrogant, however. It’s such a big turn-off to talk to someone who acts like Mr. or Ms. Know-It-All and never admits that he or she is wrong about anything. Be confident and keep other people interested, but don’t act overly confident that it becomes arrogant.
The way you use your body language can say a lot about you as an individual. Do you maintain good eye contact when talking to other people? Do you smile? Do you slouch? Do you speak in monotone? Although some may be very subtle and minute, all these factors contribute in forming an impression of you as a person.
Always remember to maintain appropriate eye contact with the people you’re having a conversation with. This shows that you’re focused and engaged in what’s being said. Looking away from a person’s face or looking somewhere else gives an impression that you’re hiding something and thus are not trustworthy. But you don’t want to be regarded as “creepy” by having too much eye contact either (e.g. staring into someone’s soul or opening your eyes really wide and looking directly at someone’s face for the entire time)!
Smile. Remember to smile when you meet new people instead of keeping a straight face all the time. Smiling shows that you’re an approachable and welcoming person, and helps break any tension at the beginning. At the same time, try to articulate your voice to express your feelings. For example, speak in a slightly higher pitch if you’re surprised or excited about something, and lower pitch when you’re being serious. Don’t talk in monotone because that will just make the entire conversation extremely boring. You don’t want people to be sleepy just by hearing your quiet and monotone voice, but you don’t want people to freak out or be annoyed by your overly loud voice either!
Make sure to have good posture. Whether you’re standing or sitting, remember not to slouch because it conveys that you’re nervous and not confident. With that being said, don’t be too rigid either because you’ll just be like a talking robot!
Personally, this is the most important thing in creating a positive lasting first impression for me. It’s good to be a strong speaker who can keep the conversation going, and it’s even better to be a strong listener. In order for people to have a powerful first impression of you, you need to make them want to keep on talking with you, and the best way is to get people to talk about themselves and listen to them. Don’t be the person who goes on and on about himself/ herself for the entire conversation. Instead, take a break, listen, and ask open-ended questions to get to know other people too. People will feel more special when you make it about themselves instead of yourself all the time.
Robert Jones, author of “How to Make a Powerful First Impression” (Entrepreneur) states that “When meeting someone new, the conversation should resemble a tennis match, with each participant taking a quick swing before sending it back to the other person.” I totally agree with this comparison. You don’t want to hold onto the ball for too long (yet it’ll drop if you don’t hit it on time)!
Keep in mind that a good listener doesn’t just listen, but also responds appropriately to what’s being said. By “responding appropriately,” I’m referring to giving feedback through body language signs such as maintaining good eye contact and nodding occasionally. This shows that the listener is actually paying attention to what’s being said instead of daydreaming about something else.
Just be yourself. We’re all unique individuals. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, especially if you’re expecting long-term friendships with the people you met. Sure, lying about your amazing accomplishments may make people think that you’re “cool” for now. But what if they find out that you’re not who you said you are? What would make them want to trust you again?
The best way to end a conversation is to leave people wanting for more. At professional networking events in particular, you want to meet as many people as possible within the short time-frame. Don’t carry on a conversation for too long (unless you guys are having a great time and absolutely can’t stop talking with each other).
Use ending lines such as “It’s been a pleasure talking with you, but I just spotted a friend in the other table. Let’s definitely continue the conversation some other times?” or “I’d love to hear more about your trip to New York last summer. Unfortunately I have some errands to run. Let’s exchange our contact information?” Personally, I like to ask an open-ended question, similar to the ones above, towards the end of a conversation to show that I enjoy the talk and want to see the other person again. Or you can even tell an interesting fact about yourself before saying goodbye to leave people wanting to hear more about it. Regardless of how you choose to end the conversation, remember to ask to people for their contact information if you want to see them again!
Another important thing to keep in mind when meeting new people is to actually remember their names. It’ll be acceptable to continuously ask people for their names when you first met, especially if they have longer and harder to remember names. But try to avoid the “Hey… you… Sorry I can’t remember your name…” awkwardness when you see them again. You can do this by asking how their names are spelled and repeating their names multiple times in sentences like “Very nice to meet you, ____” or “So ____, what do you think about the game yesterday?”
Creating a powerful first impression may take a lot of work and practice, but it’s not impossible. The more you practice, the better you get and the more confident you’ll become! So what are you waiting for? Go out there and talk to new people!
About Hue La
Hey there, I'm Hue (pronounced “huay”, not “hue” like how you would normally say it in English). I'm a USC graduate and traveler with 6+ years of study abroad experience in the U.S. I founded Study Abroad Corner with the goals of providing helpful advice and building a social network for fellow study abroaders around the world.